West Africa Study Circle       


The postal history of Nigeria commenced in the mid-19th century with early mail linked to Fernando Po, an island off the African coast and to Lagos and other places on the coast. Lagos colony first issued stamps in 1874. Trading companies were based around the coast and the Niger delta area; postal services were developed in the Niger Company Territories, which extended up the Niger River, and in the Oil Rivers Protectorate covering other coastal areas. The protectorates of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria were set up from 1 January 1900 and reorganisation in 1906 led to Lagos ceasing to be a separate postal administration. The country of Nigeria was formed from these parts in 1914, becoming independent in 1960. Civil war from 1967-1970 gave rise to the briefly separate postal administration of Biafra.

There is a very interesting blog maintained by Canadian member Chris McFetridge, which starts with further details of the postal history of Nigeria and continues by following a range of interests in the stamps of Nigeria and its constituent parts.

This link leads to a searchable list in Excel format of the pictorial designs on stamps of Nigeria since 1960.

Our Nigeria Study Editor wrote the following as reasons for collecting Nigeria.

  1. An interesting history including initial missionary, trading and empire building contacts along the coast, penetration by the Niger Company Chartered and Limited, the gradual extension and establishment of the different components of Lagos, Niger Coast, Sothern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria, the amalgamation into Nigeria, the Cameroons border plebiscites, and the 1967-70 Civil War. In researching the issues one learns a great deal about the history and geography of the country. 
  2. A conservative issue policy especially in the last 30 years which has reflected need rather than revenue seeking sales to the philatelic market. We have not seen high values inserted in issues purely for revenue purposes. This has long roots as in the colonial era there was also frugality of issues. There has been only one triangular stamp and none with gold foil or other gimmicks! The security holograms of late have added a fascinating dimension. 
  3. Plenty of diversity of issues. Both Niger Coast and Southern Nigeria did not adopt the somewhat boring De La Rue keyplate system, though Lagos, Northern Nigeria and Nigeria did. Post independence there are a wide range of themes and often these specifically relate to Nigerian culture, context, sport and politics.  
  4. Most issues have seen genuine postal use, and whether mint or used are affordable. Of course, across all issues there are some individually expensive stamps usually reflecting their scarcity, such as SG11b and amongst the Niger Coast overprints, but they add the spice.
  5. There are all the diversity of varieties a philatelist could want, be it watermarks, perforations or lack of, overprints, colours, papers, printings, plates, dies or designs. For the specialist there are many topics that can be studied in detail and pose a challenge without great expense: the 1953-58 2d is an example. Collecting plated examples of the Nigeria 1914-29 and 1921-32 (as Gibbons divide them) definitives I can assure you is a real challenge: I still have many gaps amongst the higher values after 40+ years of picking them up. The 1960s and 1970s definitives pose plenty of challenges. There are many hundreds of printings of the KGV values. Forgeries exist both the obvious and the well disguised.
  6. There are many aspects to the postal history which can form whole collections in themselves with much interest such as nineteenth century covers, registered and express mail, censors, airmails, travelling and mobile post offices, cross-border mail, transit mail, official mail, cacheted mail, Nigerian UN peacekeeping forces covers, forces mail, and mail from the Biafra-Nigeria War. Again there is a mixture offered of the scarce (eg nineteenth century missionary covers or Biafra guerrilla covers) to the complex (eg airmails 1940-45) to the common and readily obtained.
  7. There are many areas that have not been thoroughly researched and plenty of potential for philatelic writing. 
  8. The postmarks offer great scope ranging from say the early Niger Coast Territories cachets through to the single circle postal agency postmarks of the 1950s/1960s.  There are a huge range of different types of postmarks. One of the issues with the postmarks is that there are so many different offices and agencies, but one can make associations of each location to its people or activities or geography.    
  9. Postal use has been heavy since the 1930s and especially as education spread in the 1950s onwards meaning there was a literate population and that population was large and growing. Quite large numbers were retained in destination countries and so now are available for us to collect. Past philatelists did form very substantial collections which have survived if being now dispersed.
  10. For the specialist or upcoming specialist there are essays, die proofs, colour trials, specimens, and artwork. Pre-independence essays, die proofs and colour trials are distinctly elusive and scarce; post-independence artwork is more available but often individually unique and of unadopted designs. Some of this can be expensive (eg KGV proofs) but other parts can be modesty priced. The artwork is profuse and is much sought after if it is the adopted design.  
  11. Nigeria itself is an important, diverse and populous country, the leading country in Africa now. It  has an emergent middle-income population who are beginning to take an interest in collectables. 
  12. It has not attracted well-heeled elite collectors. The collectors of Nigeria are a friendly bunch!